Jamini Roy, “the unlettered outlaw” of the art world who decided to “settle for the local, the primitive, and the indigenous” – West Bengal

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The 125th birth centenary of Jamini Roy, ‘the unlettered outlaw’ of the art world, [was] celebrated at the NGMA [in July 2013].

In 1931, an exhibition of Jamini Roy’s paintings at his Calcutta residence was inaugurated by ballerina and Indologist Stella Kramrisch. Writing on it, Shanta Devi, daughter of Modern Review editor-owner and later Hindu Mahasabha president Ramananda Chatterjee, described in great detail how three rooms of Roy’s house had been transformed into a “traditional Bengali setting” complete with village pats (palm leaves) and alpona (decorative floor drawings). Eighty-two years later, on Roy’s 125th birth anniversary, the National Gallery of Modern Art does not wear a Bengali look. There are no little lamps, no incense, as Shanta Devi wrote, and of course, no alpona. […]

At the exhibition, paintings from different points in the artist’s trajectory are on display: the early days influenced by the naive style of Sunayani Devi, niece of poet Rabindranath Tagore and sister of Abanindranath; folk and western idioms; almond eyes inspired by patachitra artists; lyrical, evocative and sensuous lines; bright colours, earthy setting and the dominance of the local over the national. […]

If calligraphic lines help in simplifying the forms, a task Roy took very seriously, a flat technique lends a distinctive aura to the Santhal women. […]

Deconstructing Jamini Roy’s poetic lines, bold colours and idioms through the prisms of form and technique would not only be an affront to the genius from Beliatore village in Bankura but also offer a seriously compromised narrative of Indian nationalism. Here was a man well trained in the academic style at the Government Art College, Calcutta, who chose to negotiate his art through politics and successfully marry the two. In the process, politics influenced Jamini Roy’s choice of form, technique and everything else. It was not an easy task to defy the historicism of the Bengal school and settle for the local, the primitive, and the indigenous. It was his desire to practice an art whose inner thoughts he could enter that took him to Beliatore where, at the feet of folk artists, he learnt to be simple and expressive. Call it an act of defiance against colonial rule, Jamini Roy’s reliance on the local and his emphasis on the rural both in form and technique was an overtly political act. But as the exhibition makes it amply clear, it came at a price. Roy had to unlearn a few things. He had to, as art historian Partha Mitter points out, forsake oil for tempera and concentrate on primary colours. […]

Source: “When almond eyes beckon” by Akshcaya Mukul, The Times of India,  13 July 2013
Address: http://www.timescrest.com/culture/when-almond-eyes-beckon-10735
Date Visited: Sun Aug 09 2015 12:07:10 GMT+0200 (CEST)

[…] He received regular commissions after he graduated from the Government Art School in what is now Kolkata, in 1916. The first three decades of the twentieth century saw a sea-change in cultural expressions in Bengal. The growing surge of the nationalist movement was prompting all kinds of experiments in literature and the visual arts. The Bengal School, founded by Abanindranath Tagore and Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan under Nandalal Bose rejected European naturalism and the use of oil as a medium and were exploring new ways of representation. Jamini Roy, too, consciously rejected the style he had mastered during his academic training and from the early 1920s searched for forms that stirred the innermost recesses of his being. […]

After turning away from the academic realist style, Jamini Roy did a suite of paintings featuring Santal women. These sensuously painted women were engaged in their daily chores in their village settings. Using firm angular lines, he painted romanticised images of figures that hinted at increasing stylisation. These paintings were stepping stones to even more dramatic changes in his visual language. […]

Source: “Jamini Roy : Artworks from the collection of National Gallery of Modern Art”, National Portal and Digital Repository for Museums of India 
URL: https://museumsofindia.gov.in/repository/gallery/view/sliding/38/1/5#
Date Visited: 9 March 2023

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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